Friday, February 26, 1999

State board decides
today on courthouse
in Kapolei

By Debra Barayuga


Build it and they will come, say Kapiolani and Evelyn Kauihana of Waianae.

Both agree the state's proposed Kapolei Judiciary complex would be a blessing -- sparing them the nearly 2-1/2-hour bus ride they took into town this week to attend a Family Court hearing. All major court buildings are in downtown Honolulu.

Amendments to an agreement designating two parcels of Campbell Estate land in Kapolei be used for a proposed court building and juvenile detention center go for approval today by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.

Caseloads and activity at district and circuit courts have grown significantly in recent years, and additional facilities are needed to serve the population into the next century, said Mike Broderick, administrative director of the courts.

The idea for a court building in Leeward Oahu surfaced over a decade ago when Campbell Estate petitioned the Land Use Commission to reclassify 890 acres on the Ewa Plain from agricultural to urban district to develop Kapolei.

As part of the reclassification, the estate agreed to donate 40 acres of land in Kapolei at no cost to the state to be used for government offices or other public facilities, Broderick said.

A letter of agreement in 1994 detailed the transfer, development and use of the land. A 1998 agreement up for approval designates two parcels -- 6.5 acres for a Family Court Center and seven acres for a juvenile detention center.

The project may be expanded to also include Circuit Court and District Court facilities, Broderick said.

The first phase will consist of the proposed Family Court Center and the juvenile detention center. A second court building and a multilevel parking facility will be added later.

Reports detailing the scope of the project are expected to be completed in March 1999 and will be followed by an environmental assessment to determine whether an environmental impact study is needed.

Most of the architectural and engineering design work will be on hold until results of the environmental studies are completed.

Construction could begin as early as late 2001 with completion sometime in mid-2003. If an environmental impact study is not required, construction could begin sooner.

The Legislature has appropriated about $4.5 million for planning and design. The biggest hurdle is securing an estimated $65 million to $69 million for construction, Broderick said. The Judiciary plans to ask the Legislature for the needed funding in the 2001-2003 fiscal biennium.

The future relocation of Judiciary employees to Kapolei also will have to be handled carefully, he said.

Some attorneys and the Judiciary disagree on whether the public should be better served by moving Family Court to Kapolei.

Discussions with public worker unions will begin once construction funds for the center are allotted.

Another challenge the Judiciary faces is ensuring that access to the courts not be jeopardized, Broderick said.

The state is considering the use of videoconferencing, electronic filing and digital signatures. It also is looking into modifying hearing schedules and reducing the need for mandatory court appearances.

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